Expected changes to travel traffic light system for England, reports claim

By Luke Barras-hill |

International travel to England could soon be made easier as ministers are expected to announce a change to the rules today, it is being widely reported.

The current traffic light system could be simplified by removing the current ‘amber’ list, according to the BBC and the Guardian, with some media reports going further by suggesting the ‘green’ and amber lists could be merged.

A large numbers of countries could also be removed from the ‘red’ list, say reports.

Turkey, according to the Times, could be taken off the list in time for the October half-term holiday.

PCR TESTS ‘COULD BE SCRAPPED’

Those arriving from red list countries, which currently cover 62 countries including holiday destinations such as Turkey and The Bahamas, have to quarantine for 10 days in a hotel at a cost of thousands of pounds.

However, it is not gathered that this rule will not change for those countries that remain on the list.

While no decisions have been made yet, there are also suggestions that MPs are considering scrapping PCR tests for double-vaccinated arrivals and the need to take a pre-departure lateral flow test.

TRBusiness has reached out to the Department for Transport for comment.

The UK’s aviation capacity is currently operating at less than 20% of its usual level.

Health Secretary Sajid Javid told Sky News earlier this week that he planned to remove PCR tests on arrival as soon as possible, amid the revelation that plans for vaccine passports have now been scotched.

The aviation sector has long been calling for the rules governing travel to be streamlined and made simpler to kickstart a sector currently operating a less than 20% capacity.

Heathrow Airport, supported by major airlines and the wider travel ecosystem, has proposed the scrapping of the amber list to create a safe and simple two-tier system – a green list and red list while retaining hotel quarantine.

“Ministers must recognise the success of the global vaccination programme and move from a country-based approach to a risk-based one, based on individuals’ vaccination status,” said the airport earlier this week.

“Fully vaccinated travellers should not be required to take a test, while those who are not vaccinated should continue to take a pre-departure and arrival test using lateral flow, following up with a PCR test if positive.”

The government’s Transport Select Committee has launched an inquiry to assess the impact on aviation caused by the cost of testing, long border queues, axed routes and the ending of the furlough scheme this month.

The UK’s aviation capacity is currently at less than 20% of usual capacity, versus a recovery of almost 70% in Europe.

A scene-setting evidence session will take place on 21 September, bringing together airports and airlines who will share perspectives on how the traffic light system and country classifications are depressing demand for international travel. Representatives from Heathrow, Gatwick, British Airways and easyJet are expected to attend.

The Committee is also calling for written evidence, with a deadline of October 13.

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